China's economy appears to be recovering from the pandemic-induced slowdown, reporting an on-year rise in exports of 7.2% in July on Friday.
The increase confounded market analysts' expectations. They had predicted a modest drop in exports of around 0.2% – 0.7% caused by a recent spike in global virus infections, sparking renewed lockdowns and weakening global demand.
China, where the virus broke out in early December, was the first economy to shut down to fight the coronavirus and the first to reopen after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.
Its economy, like many around the world, suffered its worst economic contraction in decades as a result of the economic shutdown.
China's imports contracted by 1.4%, according to Friday's customs data. Market expectations were for a 1.0% increase.
Read more: Coronavirus: China drops GDP goal, boosts spending
The country's trade surplus for July stood at $62.33 billion (€52 billion), compared with an expected $42 billion surplus forecast in the poll and a surplus of $46.42 billion in June.
China's exports were bolstered by sales in medical supplies. January to July exports of textile products, including face masks, rose 31.3% compared with the same period last year. Growth of sales in medical equipment also picked up to 47.3% from 41.4%.A bumpy recovery
Economists welcomed the data but cautioned against premature excitement over the data.
"The data is in line with our forecast for exports to recover more decisively in H2 alongside the global economy," reported news agency Reuters, citing Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics research at Oxford Economics.
"However, the road ahead may be bumpy as new export orders remain weak and the recovery path will be uneven across economies."
Lu Ting, chief China economist of Nomura agreed that the road to economic recovery might not be straightforward. "Decent export growth" can be expected extend for another one to two months, said Luo, adding: "As some countries gradually reopen their economies and start producing personal protective equipment domestically for security reasons, China's exports of those products could decline."
The positive export figures come ahead of senior US and Chinese holding a video conference next week to review the implementation of phase 1 of the US-China trade deal that sparked a trade war between the two nations.
kmm/aw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)